OLD Media Moves

Behind the scenes of WSJ. Money

September 20, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

The third issue of WSJ Money, the Wall Street Journal‘s upscale personal finance magazine, appears Saturday as an insert in the business newspaper.

The magazine focuses on investing issues for the high-net worth crowd, with special departments and columns such as “Empire Builder” and “Made of Money” centered around several long-form features written by the staff and freelancers.

It has also looked into why Singapore has quietly attracted such a high number of millionaires, the strange and curious world behind the  gem business, and what Christine Lagarde has to say about the future of the world economy.

Jonathan DahlJonathan Dahl is the editor of the magazine. He was formerly the editor of Smart Money, the Dow Jones & Co. personal finance magazine that stopped printing in 2012.

Dahl spoke Friday morning by email with Talking Biz News about WSJ. Money. What follows is an edited transcript.

How did the idea for WSJ.Money come about?

The field for personal finance coverage has become enormously crowded, with so many magazines, websites and cable shows offering advice on how to spend, save and plan your money. But the coverage is almost entirely focused on the mid-market reader. We saw a chance to reach out to a different audience — the high-end crowd — but knew it had to be done with great journalism and with great photography that a glossy magazine can produce.

There seem to be a number of magazines in this field, from Bloomberg Pursuits to Forbes Life. What do you do different at WSJ. Money?

I enjoy reading about how the rich-and-famous spend their money. Who doesn’t? But that has nothing to do with WSJ. Money: We’re showing how the wealthy are growing (not spending) their money. And we’re doing it during a period when it has never been harder to do so, given today’s low interest rates. But in the same way those spending magazines are fun to read, we believe WSJ. Money is similarly interesting to readers who are not ultra-wealthy, but who want to read about people who are buying entire toll bridges, investing in Burma gem mines, and making a killing on Chinese stamps.

What did you learn at Smart Money that you’re doing now with WSJ. Money?

We use less far less resources to accomplish much of the same, in terms of producing quality features and attractive designs. As with the rest of the journalism field, we have learned to become a lot more efficient.

This magazine is a quarterly. Why that publishing schedule?

Over the years, we’ve seen many new magazines blow all their resources before establishing their advertising and readership market. The magazine is off to a great start, but is a new concept that will need tweaking. WSJ., our widely successful sister publication, started out on a similar schedule.

Could this expand to more issues per year, and be sold separately from the newspaper?

We definitely will consider expanding to more issues a year, but I don’t think it makes sense to move us to newspaper stands. By inserting the magazine into The Wall Street Journal, we are guaranteed an enormous readership.

How is the magazine content produced — staff, freelancers, or a combination?

It’s a combination of freelancers and staff members, and so far the mix has been great — from the Journal’s award winning columnist Jason Zweig to John Koten, the former to top editor for Fast Company and Inc.

What are the goals of the magazine?

We want to create awareness surrounding high-end finance — how, for example, wealthy families tend to eat up most of their inheritances by the third generation, why Singapore is quietly attracting the world’s high ratio of millionaires, and so on. But equally important, we want to continue to show the value and importance of long-form journalism. I’m proud of the features we have already run. We were first, for example, to interview a little-known young Houston couple who have decided to give away $4 billion.

How is high-end personal finance a niche in business journalism that produces quality content?

The number of millionaires  with assets over $5 million has quadrupled in 10 years. For better or worse, it is the ultra-rich who are driving the much of the world economy. Business publications today need to know where these people — especially the new rich in Asia — are investing their assets.

How does the magazine fit into what The Journal is trying to accomplish with its coverage?

I’ve watched the paper over the years become far more of an international publication, as it keeps up with the fast-paced changes in the global economy. WSJ. Money focuses precisely on the international sector — with the bulk of our stories and departments describing world investments. Like the Journal, we’ve also got access to some of the biggest names in business, whether it’s Mark Cuban describing his climb to wealth in our “Empire Builder” graphic, or Christine Lagarde offering her thoughts on the Europe economy.

What has improved from the first issue to the one coming out on Saturday?

Because of the success of the early issues, both in reader feedback and advertising, we have more space now to do more features and provide more colorful photography. The reader doesn’t know it, of course, but the team producing all this is much more efficient now too.

What areas would you still like to work on with the magazine?

I think the greatest opportunities for this kind of coverage will ultimately be online. We started out with the notion of setting the table, if you will, with a beautiful and interesting publication readers could hold in their hands. But we know that we’ll need to increase our online content as we continue to grow.

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